Monthly Archives: September 2017

More Dominoes Fall

This weekend has seen an unprecedented number of NFL players kneel, stand at inattention, or be absent for the national anthem, all in response to Pres. Trump’s Friday diss of players’ political protests.

During an Alabama rally, he claimed that players who protested the national anthem should be fired.  Now, even more of his supporters are voicing frustration with his focus on non-policy issues, and his attempts to curb free speech.

Shahid Khan, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, is the first minority man to own an NFL team.  He is also a past supporter of Trump.  However, at Saturday’s London game, he stood in solidarity with his protesting players.

Khan is one of seven NFL owners who have contributed $1 million or more to Trump.

Governed by GAFA

Silicon Valley may think it represents the anti-government, but when does it BECOME the government?  They already surveil, and set rules and norms.  So, are you satisfied with the current/future aegis of Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon?

Facebook represents a dangerous deviation in media history. Once upon a time, elites proudly viewed themselves as gatekeepers. They could be sycophantic to power and snobbish, but they also felt duty-bound to elevate the standards of society and readers. Executives of Silicon Valley regard gatekeeping as the stodgy enemy of innovation — they see themselves as more neutral, scientific and responsive to the market than the elites they replaced — a perspective that obscures their own power and responsibilities.

Franklin Foer tells us what’s up…

Your Linguistic Footprint

In the new Discovery TV series, “Manhunt: The Unabomber,” the identity of Ted Kaczynski is determined from the linguistics in his manifesto. A profile was built around someone who read the Chicago Tribune growing up, and received a PhD within a defined time period.

With some study, we can all become trained to infer a writer’s geographic origins, educational institutions, and news sources from word choice, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation, and slang (#teamoxfordcomma right there).

In the show, the linguistics alone are not enough to charge Ted; rather, they form the basis for the search warrant of Ted’s cabin–which is where the FBI obtain bombmaking materials as evidence.

Since that case in 1995, forensic linguistics seems to have been used more, both by the prosecution AND the defense.

Some interesting subtypes include:

  • Forensic Phonetics–correctly identifying a voice, especially on a recording
  • Forensic Dialectology–determining a person’s origin, which can be especially helpful in asylum cases
  • Discourse Analytics–sorting out who is introducing ideas and who is agreeing. Most relevant for covertly recorded confessions.

There is still much variance in the acceptability of these methods. Despite its intuitive resonance, as a relatively new field it must fight for credibility.

Do you think forensic linguistics deserves more prominence in the legal field?  Write us!